The Health and Safety Executive’s Fees for Intervention scheme is reported to have generated around £857,000 between 1 December 2012 and 31 January 2013.
A Freedom of Information request tendered by business law firm, DWF, also found that 60% of inspections during this time culminated in a charge to the business.
The HSE’s cost recovery regulations, which came into effect in October 2012, state that anyone found in breach of safety laws is liable for recovery of HSE’s related costs including inspection, investigation and taking enforcement action.
“Invoice increase alarming”
Steffan Groch, head of DWF’s regulatory team, said the number of invoices put out by the HSE is increasing at an “alarming rate”.
“It is now more likely than ever before that business owners will receive an HSE inspection that results in an invoice for the HSE’s time”, he added.
“It is good to see that the average value of an invoice remains relatively low at £474, which is equal to just under four hours. However, we are aware that there have been 89 queries raised in relation to the invoices issued where the recipient was unhappy with either the cost or the reason for being charged.
“Of these queries, HSE conceded and amended 26 of them in the recipients’ favour. This figure is encouraging as it was feared that businesses would not challenge the invoices to avoid rocking the boat and attracting further unwanted attention from HSE.”
But Mr Groch said “worries” remained that the queries were not being dealt with independently.
“The HSE handles its invoices directly and we encourage the HSE to review its appeal process to ensure they are dealt with in a fair and transparent manner”, he added.
In a September 2012 press release the HSE’s chief executive, Geoffrey Podger, said that the “most basic safety mistakes in the workplace can devastate lives and result in real costs to industry.”
“It is right that those who fail to meet their legal obligations should pay HSE’s costs rather than the public purse having to do so”, he explained.
The HSE underscores that businesses which comply with legal obligations will continue to pay nothing.